Abstract

This article describes work undertaken by the VERA project to investigate how archaeologists work with information technology (IT) on excavation sites. We used a diary study to research the usual patterns of behaviour of archaeologists digging the Silchester Roman town site during the summer of 2007. Although recording had previously been undertaken using pen and paper, during the 2007 season a part of the dig was dedicated to trials of IT and archaeologists used digital pens and paper and Nokia N800 handheld PDAs to record their work. The goal of the trial was to see whether it was possible to record data from the dig whilst still on site, rather than waiting until after the excavation to enter it into the Integrated Archaeological Database (IADB) and to determine whether the archaeologists found the new technology helpful. The digital pens were a success, however, the N800s were not successful given the extreme conditions on site. Our findings confirmed that it was important that technology should fit in well with the work being undertaken rather than being used for its own sake, and should respect established work flows. We also found that the quality of data being entered was a recurrent concern as was the reliability of the infrastructure and equipment.

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